For lunch today, we braised small whole eggplants, garlic, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, and basil in olive oil. It tasted like midsummer in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. And brought to mind Mireille Johnston and her 1976 book, Cuisine of the Sun. It’s a beautiful gift when flavors evoke times, places, and people from the past.
Yesterday, neighbor Bill dropped off a big bag of his freshly harvested curly kale. So today we finely chopped those beautiful greens, mixed them with toasted breadcrumbs, currants, scallions, and crumbled bacon, then dressed them with an anchovy vinaigrette. Now that will put hair on your chest. Uh-oh we may have to rethink that.
Believe it or not, today’s pasta sauce was the end of our stash of last year’s frozen grated fresh tomatoes. Twelve months ago we cut tomatoes in half horizontally, grated their fleshy sides on the large holes of a box grater, then discarded the skins. We strained the pulp to remove the seeds, then filled ziplock bags with the sauce along with a few fresh basil leaves. Then into the freezer they went. Amazingly, it tasted as fresh as the day we made it! Today we tossed rigatoni into the sauce with lots of grated parmigiano, s & p, and a good drizzle of olive oil—simple and delicious. Our tomatoes are just ripening on the vines so it’s almost time to make more sauce.
Some people might call today, Wednesday, hump day. We’re calling it wedgeday in honor of the baby romaine lettuce we had for lunch with blue cheese dressing, lots of chopped bacon, and a drizzle of good olive oil. Iceberg lettuce sure makes a fine wedge salad, but these beautiful, tight little heads of romaine have more than crunch. They’ve got flavor!
“Food is your best medicine”—as Dr. Henry Beiler wrote over fifty years ago—and today’s lunch sure proves that. We ate: lentils with raw spring onions, roasted beets sweet as sugar, yogurt with cumin and coriander, sliced summer tomatoes, and boiled eggs all anointed with a sharp mustardy vinaigrette. No afternoon nap for us. We’re raring to go.
The scene was pure Norman Rockwell at Trauger’s Farm Market this morning. A young boy, maybe six years old, had set up his lemonade stand just to the right of the doors. Being entrepreneurs ourselves (and understanding what it takes to get something going), we asked the price of two glasses of lemonade. “Oh”, he said,” you’ll have to ask my grandmother. She’s inside.” We spied his towheaded siblings out back helping sort corn. What a way to grow up, visiting your grandparents’ farm midsummer. It’s a dream of continuity, of simplicity, of something true, of a life based on something real and meaningful.
We bought purple spring onions, a big just-picked bunch of rainbow chard, yellow and bi-colored corn, some purple string beans, and a dozen fresh eggs. We came to the studio and made this delicate chard frittata for lunch. And by the way, the lemonade was 50¢ a glass—a fair and honest price, just like everything else in that market. It was a perfect way to start the week.
A package from California arrived at Canal House today. Before we looked at the sender’s name and address we recognized the heft and bulge of the box—avocados from Ventura, California. A few times a year our friends, the Orr’s, ship us a stash of fruit plucked from the trees in their orchard. These avocados belong in the Avocado Hall of Fame with rich, nutty flavor and creamy, dense flesh. Also tucked into the box were two jars of their homemade boysenberry jam—and everyone knows there ‘s not a better berry in the world. So we stopped what we were doing and made a pile of toast to slather with butter and jam or mashed avocados with olive oil. This was the finest way to end our work week—feet up on the windowsill, watching the rain through the screens, munching toast. TGIF. Cook something delicious for yourselves, dear friends.
On this hot, muggy day we are working in the splendor of air conditioning. So much so, that instead of a cold summer salad (a more appropriate lunch), we are feasting on duck legs braised with shiitake mushrooms and purple spring onions. We considered pouring ourselves glasses of 2007 Liber Pater Bordeaux, but instead went with good old Frenchtown tap water with a couple of ice cubes. We have to cut back somewhere!
Happy corn-on-the-cob season. We like bi-colored ears, boiled, with salted butter, and the crunch of a little more salt. CH eats her corn off the cob going round and round. MH eats hers typewriter style. How about you? We’ll be talking corn recipes and spinning tunes on our weekly radio show, “The Canal House Kitchen Hour” on wdvrfm.org from 4:00 to 5:00 pm EDT. Tune in, if you get a chance. See you on the radio!
Our week started off beautifully with lunch with Cathy Barrow (www.cathybarrow.com). We drove up the river to Trauger’s Farm Market (www.traugers.com) early this morning and found bins of bi-color “Temptation” corn, delicate green and yellow beans, and two colors of zucs—everything we needed for our first summer succotash. We nestled a roasted chicken, along with all its juices, on top of the vegetables. The garden giveth.
Today lunch was salmon bathed in lemon butter sauce with braised scallions and little boiled potatoes. Kinda fancy but very simple to make. The sauce makes anything taste luxurious. Here’s how you make it—Whisk 2 egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of water together in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat (you don’t want the eggs to scramble!). Whisk in 1 tablespoon of cold butter until it has melted into the sauce, and continue this way until you have whisked in a total of 8 tablespoons butter. The sauce will have thickened nicely. (If it separates, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in another piece of cold butter to cool the sauce down. It should come back together.) Remove from the heat and add the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt and a pinch of cayenne.